Be Optimistic by Learning About It

The book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Dr. Martin Seligman is not new, but it is to me. For others who have not heard about it before, it looks like an uplifting read. The central thesis of the book is to essentially learn what a worthwhile life is for you and to un-learn the other things: learn optimism.

‘Happiness’ is a scientifically unwieldy notion, but there are three different forms of it if you can pursue. For the ‘Pleasant Life,’ you aim to have as much positive emotion as possible and learn the skills to amplify positive emotion. For the ‘Engaged Life,’ you identify your highest strengths and talents and recraft your life to use them as much as you can in work, love, friendship, parenting, and leisure. For the ‘Meaningful Life,’ you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.


Ultimately, Seligman points to optimism not only as a means to individual well-being, but also as a powerful aid in finding your purpose and contributing to the world:

Optimism is invaluable for the meaningful life. With a firm belief in a positive future you can throw yourself into the service of that which is larger than you are.

Read more about the book itself and see Brain Picking’s best books of 2011.

Bacteria Creates Fuel Compatible with Gasoline Engines

The need for a biofuel that can be used in standard automobiles is needed more everyday as the bloody global thirst for oil only increases. Thankfully researchers have engineered a bacteria that can produce a fuel substance that can be used in standard internal combustion engines.

To be used as a mainstream alternative to fossil fuels – desirable because biofuels are carbon-neutral over their lifetime – engines would have to be redesigned, or an extra processing step employed to convert the fuel into a more usable form.

To try to bypass that, John Love from the University of Exeter in the UK and colleagues took genes from the camphor tree, soil bacteria and blue-green algae and spliced them into DNA from Escherichia coli bacteria. When the modified E. coli were fed glucose, the enzymes they produced converted the sugar into fatty acids and then turned these into hydrocarbons that were chemically and structurally identical to those found in commercial fuel.

Read more at New Scientist.

The full text can be found here, thanks to Reddit!

Paris Marathon Runners Generated Energy to Power Event

At the recent Paris marathon the runners literally generated electricity. Pavegen put down a series of tiles that create an electric charge when compressed, so all they had to do was lay the tiles along the marathon route. The resulting energy generated by the runners was enough to power signs and screens during the event; the goal is to have the marathon fully powered by the runners themselves.

The flexible tiles made from recycled truck tires will span a portion of the Champs Elysees for about 25 meters (82 feet) of the 42.2-kilometer course, according to Pavegen Systems Ltd., the U.K. maker of the tiles. Each footstep generates as much as 8 watts of kinetic energy, which is fed back to batteries that can charge display screens and electronic signs along the route, the company said.

Schneider Electric SA (SU), the race sponsor, aims to eventually make the Paris Marathon an event that generates energy rather than consumes it, Aaron Davis, the company’s chief marketing officer, said in Pavegen’s statement. London-based Pavegen aims for its tiles to help cut carbon emissions and boost energy efficiency in cities around the world in the future, it said.

Read more at Bloomberg.

10 MW Ocean Power Plant Planned for China

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) uses the difference in temperature at different water depths to produce energy, similar to how geothermal works. A green resort in China is going to be powered by the OTEC system and the companies involved in building the power plant are hoping that this will prove the technology works well enough for larger projects.

OTEC uses the natural difference in temperatures between the cool deep water and warm surface water to produce electricity. There are different cycle types of OTEC systems, but the prototype plant is likely to be a closed-cycle system. This sees warm surface seawater pumped through a heat exchanger to vaporize a fluid with a low boiling point, such as ammonia. This expanding vapor is used to drive a turbine to generate electricity with cold seawater then used to condense the vapor so it can be recycled through the system.

The companies claim each 100 MW OTEC facility could produce the same amount of energy in a year as 1.3 million barrels of oil and decrease carbon emissions by half a million tons. Assuming oil trading at near US$100 a barrel, they estimate fuel savings from one plant could exceed $130 million a year.

Read more at Gizmag.

Stop Desertification With Wildlife

Allan Savory wants to end desertification by helping grasslands flourish. Many parts of the world are experiencing desertification, including China which is planting trees to fight the growing dunes, so a solution to this growing problem is needed. Savory’s solution is counter-intuitve and absolutely brilliant:use wildlife to save the land.

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